FRISCO, Texas – These types of curveballs are starting to feel familiar.
For the second time in the past three years, the Cowboys are losing a Pro Bowler and a team leader to retirement. Travis Frederick announced Monday evening that he was retiring from football, bringing an end to a seven-year career that saw him rack up three All-Pro designations and five trips to the Pro Bowl.
Frederick will go down as one of the very best center in Cowboys history – but that won't stop anyone from looking toward the future.
This announcement comes just one week after the start of the new league year, so the Cowboys have plenty of time to decide how they want to replace Frederick. And fortunately for them, they already have several candidates for the job on their roster.
Here's a look at the most likely ways the Cowboys could replace their retired All-Pro.
The most obvious choice – and for good reason.
Looney has already done this before, stepping into the starting lineup when Frederick went down with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in 2018. He started 16 games for a Cowboys team that finished 10-6 and won the NFC East, helping them finish No. 10 in rushing offense in the league.
It wasn't all rosy. Looney gives up some expertise to Frederick in terms of communication and making calls, and it doesn't seem like a coincidence that the Dallas offensive line surrendered 56 sacks that year, ranking them 31st in the league.
Still, Looney performed admirably for a guy who was thrust into the starting role two weeks before the season. His overall performance has been good enough that he has now earned three contracts with the Cowboys – the most recent being a one-year deal, signed just last week.
It's hard to say for sure whether the Cowboys' front office knew of Frederick's retirement when they offered Looney that deal, but they have to be happy about it now. Looney is the elder statesman of this group of candidates, and he's also the only guy on the roster who has started an NFL game at center.
That alone seems likely to make him the early favorite in the club house.
There's questions aplenty when the Cowboys made McGovern the 90th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. With Pro Bowlers all over the line, where would they find a spot for the Penn State star?
Funny how these things have a way of working themselves out.
The Cowboys' logic at the time was that McGovern was simply too good to pass on the value – and now that will be put to the test. During the pre-draft process, he was noted for his power, but he lost his entire rookie season due to a pectoral injury suffered during the offseason program.
McGovern will be ready to go for this year's offseason program, and now feels like the perfect time to point out that he started 14 games at center during his Penn State career. The Nittany Lions asked him to play the entire 2017 season at center before he ultimately switched to right guard for his junior season.
During the limited work he did get last offseason, the Cowboys allowed him to get reps at center on at least a couple occasions.
Only time will tell what the Cowboys' new coaching staff opts to do with him, but he does have experience at the position.
It sounds a bit crazy, but it's at least worth talking about.
Officially, he has never played the position. Williams was an All-American left tackle at Texas, and he has primarily played left guard since he was drafted in 2018.
That said, one of his strengths as a draft prospect was his versatility. At his college Pro Day, scouts worked Williams at every offensive line position – including some reps snapping the ball. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has been on the record saying the front office thinks Williams can play every spot along the line, including center.
To this point in his career, the biggest knock on Williams' game has been a lack of power, which is something that's hard to hide at the guard position. What Williams does possess, though, is a high football IQ, which could help him transition to the center spot.
It sounds strange, but it's something to consider while we wait for the Cowboys to be able to take the practice field again.
The Cowboys picked up the option on Redmond's contract a week prior to the start of free agency, and they were smart for doing so.
As noted above, the Harvard grad has never started an NFL game at center, but he does have experience playing the position. He played all over the offensive line during his Harvard career, but he settled into the center role during his final season.
Since going undrafted in 2016, he has bounced between center and guard. The Cowboys claimed him off waivers in 2018, and he made 10 appearances – all of that work coming at guard. In 2019, he was a regular feature on the game day inactives list, and he was eventually sent to injured reserve.
With so few snaps to judge off of, it's understandable that Redmond gets lost in the shuffle. But the Cowboys clearly retained him for a reason. Perhaps Frederick's departure will provide an opportunity for him to flourish in a new position.